Monday, November 21, 2005

GM, Where is their mind?

You might be wondering how a Life Coach thinks he knows how GM can turn around their company. Well I am more than a Life Coach, I am a consumer, a businessman and a owner/driver of Chevrolet vehicles for the past 30 years.

Take my word, General Motors is headed down the same path as Delta, Winn Dixie and K-Mart. For the record, GM is making all the same mistakes. They won't listen to anyone, I even wrote to Rick Wagoner Jr. today with my comments.

My only concern is that Ford is right behind GM. In less than 5 years, all cars will be imported or built with 100% imported parts. I have owned and operated 6 businesses and I speak from experience, GM is making all the wrong moves.

Lets look at all of these companies and see if there is a pattern.

K-Mart was up and running long before Wal-Mart started. K-Mart built large stores, lost control and never fixed up their stores. Wal-Mart was started as Walton's 5 & 10. Sam built larger, newer stores. He kept his stores clean and neat. He focused on price but more important, he focused on " Made In America." Even though almost everything at Wal-Mart is imported. Most important, Sam focused on taking anything back. Although this has changed, they still stand behind their products.

K-Mart employees lost interest, the stores became dirty, yet the management continued to spend millions on the glossy weekly newspaper inserts. Most of the time they never had the item or it did not look like the one in the ad. They were on the right track bringing in Martha Stewart, but just about everything else was a mistake. Where did it leave them, in Chapter 11.

Now take Winn Dixie, they let their stores run down, they were dirty and old. What did they do, they tried to compete with Wal-Mart and Publix on price. As you can see, guess who lost that fight, Winn Dixie stock is now about 60 cents a share.

Ok, now lets take a look at Delta. What a sad story. At one time Delta was perceived as the top airline in America. Delta was rock solid. Delta was strong and healthy, but problems developed before 9/11. They started to compete with Value Jet, now known as Air Trans. They should have stayed the leader, increasing customer service and improving meals. Instead of growing stronger, they decided to compete on price and give Air Trans tough competition. Look how this ended, Delta stock is worth about 60 cents.

Now look at GM, "HELLO", "WAKE UP", do you see a pattern. For many years, GM vehicles were king of the road. I remember as a kid riding in my parents Chevrolet. The door panel had a logo that said, "Body Made By Fisher." This was when cars were built like tanks.

Then the imports arrived. They were perceived to be built better and cheaper. Remember those days when imports meant cheap, not anymore. Buying a new car was an experience. Each model year the vehicles changed and the excitement built, but overall cars were still inexpensive.

Over the past 20 years, buying a car has lost it's luster. Cars are expensive and dealer lots are full. Now lets compare this to K-Mart. Most dealers have a great deal of inventory, they push locating the car you want instead of selling you the car they have. The sales people at most GM lots I visit have lost their enthusiasm. Now lets talk about service after the sale. GM in my book rates a big "0".

Have a problem, go back to the dealer with your $50,000 and see how you are treated. Have a problem that the dealer does not resolve, good luck, writing GM is like talking to a nice big rock. They don't care.

Ok, so how could GM reinvent itself. First, they could hold town hall style meetings, each night invite owners of a certain model to a free dinner. Lets the owners tell the designers what they like and don't like.

Second, they could shift the way dealers repair vehicles. Try looking at it from the customers view point. Start treating the customers like they just bought a new $50,000 vehicle. Maybe see how Lexus and Range Rover treat their customers.

Then stop spending millions on daily newspaper ads and start treating customers like they should be treated. How about a gift and follow up call after the sale from someone at GM who cares and has some authority. When you take your car in for repair, act like it is GM's fault instead of the customers. Do whatever it takes to make it right.

I buy my vehicles from an old fashion Chevy dealer. The general manager waits on us himself. He treats us like a friend instead of a customer. One thing I know for sure, if I have a problem after the sale, he will take care of it and treat us right. Maybe GM needs to visit Hardy Chevrolet in Gainesville Georgia where I buy my vehicles.

Ok, so there you have it, GM just took its first step in recreating itself and I think it took a big leap in the wrong direction.

Tomorrow I will write about Wolf Camera, definitely #1 on my list of customer service nightmare stories.

Until then, when you are driving, please wear your seat belt.


Friday, November 11, 2005

My article in 400 Edition is back!

Wow, I don't know where to start. I have received so many e mails and phone calls from friends, family and even just local people. When I go into town to pick up a few things at Wal-Mart, I am stopped so often and asked what is going on.

As many of you know, due to the accident, I missed writing my October article for 400 Edition. I write a one page article each month for 400 Edition on life experiences. I was under so much stress trying to take care of Brenda and help keep her comfortable, that I just could not write the article. The folks over at 400 Edition are wonderful. They fully understood.

Well my monthly article will be back in the paper starting this month. The November edition comes out Tuesday. I wrote about customer service or lack of customer service. In the past I shopped at Publix. I grew up shopping at Publix. Then about a year ago, I started shopping several times a week at the Publix on Thompson Bridge in Gainesville Georgia.

The employees were always nice, the store is clean and the food is delicious. One day on my way home, my daughter asked me to pick up some rotisserie chicken. I stopped in and bought two rotisserie chickens and some side dishes.

It was 5 pm and when I arrived home at 5:45, my daughter noticed that the chicken was marked, sell by 3 pm. That means it was cooked at 1 pm and sitting under a heat lamp that does not keep food at a safe temperature. It might make the food seem warm to the touch, but from a sanitary condition, it does not always keep it at a safe temperature throughout.

The next time I was in the store, I mentioned it to the assistant manager. She seemed really concerned and said she would take care of it. About two weeks later, I go back to the same Publix, buy two more rotisserie chickens and guess what, this time when I get home, the chicken seems cool, but there is no time marked on the chicken.

So I go back, the next day, only this time I am not as understanding. The same assistant manager is there. I explain the problem. She tells me it is not possible. So I go out to my car and get the package. Then she tries to tell me that it was an isolated case. So I march her back to the deli and guess what, all the rotisserie chickens are unmarked, no time on any of them. So I ask the employee, right there in front of the assistant manager, why they do not have a time stamp.

The employee tells me why does it matter, they just came out. Was that a few minutes ago or a few hours ago. So I ask the employee if this happens all the time or just today. She tells me that the deli manager tells them to leave the time off to get a longer shelf life. I was really mad at this point.

So I ask the assistant manager to have the manager call me back. Guess what, he never does. So I go see him a few days later. He tells me he was busy and forgot to call me. He tells me he is sorry, but there is nothing more he could do. So I paid $20, wasted a trip to Publix, had to throw away the dinner and eat cold cereal for dinner. My children will always remember the manager of that Publix for his understanding and lack of good business sense.

So the next time I am out giving a speech to a large group of massage therapist, I tell this story, I called it, " How not to treat your customers." I tell the group that I grew up remembering Publix philosophy, they would stand behind the products they sell, even after the meal is cooked. I remember as a kid my mom taking back a roast after she cooked it because it was so tough.

About 4 months ago, I am in Florida, I am telling this story for the fiftieth time, a man stands up and tells me he works for Publix and that something is wrong, this is not how Publix operates. I explain to him that this is how I was treated. He was a 20 year employee of Publix and that I should go back to the store and tell the manager that I am still upset.

So true to my word, I go back to the Publix on Thompson Bridge Rd. in Gainesville Georgia and speak with the manager. I ask him if he remembers the rotisserie chicken problem, I remind him that his assistant manager was too busy to talk to me that day since they had a shoplifter and were waiting for the police to show up.

The manager acknowledges that he remembers clearly what happened and he is sorry, but there is nothing more he can do but apologize and hope that I will continue shopping at Publix. I told him very clearly that I was not happy, I think he made a poor decision and I felt like Publix owed me $20. He said he was sorry and that he appreciates the feedback.

So rest assured I will continue to tell my rotisserie chicken story across America. Now I have added a twist to my story. I have started shopping at Kroger in Dawsonville. Jay Walker is the manager, he does an excellent job. More important, he tells me, " I know sometimes we will make a mistake, but if we do, just tell him and allow him to make it right."

To me, that is what customer service and customer loyalty is all about. Would you like to hear the saddest customer service quote of the week.

I needed to replace Brenda's sunglasses. During the accident and upon loading her in the ambulance, he designer sunglasses are gone. State Farm agreed to replace them. The adjustor for State Farm was not willing to just see how much they cost, she needed a receipt to show we replaced them.

So I looked on-line, I found them, but the adjustor would not accept that, she needed a receipt. So I called Neiman Marcus in Atlanta, they sell the sunglasses. I asked her if she can UPS them to me. She agrees but then finds that the only pair she has are damaged, they have a scratch on the lens.

I requested a few different options, all of which she tells me are against policy or she is unable to do. I explained that my wife had been in a head on collision and is not well. She pauses and then states, " unfortunately, this is not Nordstrom's, where building customer loyalty is the motto, Neiman Marcus focuses on selling name brands and fashion." THIS IS THE WORST CUSTOMER SERVICE QUOTE OF THE YEAR. To tell a customer that your company does not care about customer loyalty as much as your competitor is really risky.

Later I will share my worst customer service story of late, Wolf Camera. I am going to use this story in 06 to demonstrate how not to keep a customer.

Until Sunday, please drive safe.